“Kali, I’m tired. Carry me please?”
Kalem looked down at the little girl next to her, “We will camp soon alright? Just hold on for a little while, Dina.”
They trudged on. The girls had been traveling for three days and still had not found their distination. Strider had said three days but then again he and his companions had probably been traveling a good deal faster than Kalem and Dina. Kalem was worried about the little girl. Dina wasn’t up to this kind of travel. Thin and frail, she got sick easily and did not sleep well. The journey was beginning to tell on her; she was starting to lag behind and had a very bad cold, “Think of this, Dina. We are going to meet the Evenstar. What will we say?”
Dina considered this seriously for a moment, “I think she will be very nice so we will have to be very nice too,” Dina responded. Then her right foot diseppeared from view and she fell, turning backwards at the same time.
“Dina!” Kalem ran to her, “Dina, are you alright?”
“No,” Dina said as tears began to trace their way down her dirty face, “My ankle hurts. Is it broken?”
“Can you moved it?”
Dina nodded,”But it hurts even more when I do that. Can we please stop now?”
“Yes we can camp here.”
The next morning it became evident that Dina’s ankle was definitly sprained as Kalem had suspected the previous night. It had swollen and turned a nastly blue-black colour. Dina bravely offered to walk but Kalem insisted on carrying her.
By noon Dina’s temperature had soared and whenever her mouth opened she coughed so much that she was gasping for breath. Before pushing on Kalem wrapped Dina up in her cloak as well as the Dina’s own to give her more protection from the chilled winter air. Kalem swung her pack onto her back and picked Dina up. She turned her face to the wind coming from the North-East and began to walk. She forded streams and clambered over fallen logs aplenty. The woods were calm but Kalem was alert for anything. Dina was quiet except for her heavy breathing and occasional sniffs.
With the added weight Kalem did not make very good progress. When she stopped had finally stopped for the night she heard a voice singing nearby.
Kalem slowly got up and made her way to the source. The singer was an old grissled human man rinding a stout pony and leading four horses behind him. Kalem knew immediatly what he was.
“Horse trader!” she called, walking up to him, “Are these horses up for sale?”
“They are,” the man replied. Seeing a potential customer he dismounted, “Which one you lookin’ at?”
“That one there,” the girl pointed to a large dark bay mare standing behind the others.
“Ah yes,” the man smiled and led the horse forward, “Her name is Aras, Sindarin for Deer. And she’s like one too. A quieter, calmer and more faithful girl you won’t find easily. Born of elven stock around Mirkwood. She’s strong and sure-footed. Very good size too, for a girl your age. She’ll last you awhile.”
The two bickered and bargained. The man rode away with most of Kalem’s little money and the few pieces of jewelry the Lord had given to her when she was younger and found them covered in dust in one of the guest rooms. Kalem led Aras back to camp and got ready to go to sleep.
The next morning dawned bright and cold. Dina had gotten worse and Kalem knew she had to get her help soon. To add to the situation the food was getting low- they had half a day left of rations. The older girl decided that the only thing to do was to get going as fast as possible and with Aras things would speed up a good deal more.
By mid-morning Kalem came to the widest stream yet. It was not deep though and Kalem urged Aras forward. The mare stopped, however, and seemed to take a good look at the water. Kalem let her since she knew sometimes horses sensed things humans didn’t. But as she waited she grew aware of a-she wasn’t quite sure how to put it- a watchfulness about the place. Somebody was watching over this place and it was well protected. Aras lowered her nose to the water and took a gulp. She raised her head, shook it a bit and then continued on. But Kalem had the feeling, as she crossed the water, that someone had taken good look at her and decided that she was allowed to pass. If she was not she would have been in trouble.
Kalem had not gotten very far when she pulled Aras to a halt. Dina coughed and sniffed but was too tired to say anything. Kalem glanced at the trees around her warily. She was being watched. And not by somebody far away. No, whoever it was was near. She could feel them even though she couldn’t see them.
“Hello?” she called out. A few birds flew away in surprise but nothing more, “I know you are here! I can feel your eyes upon me! I am no enemy to this place and I hope you are not either!”
“We are not enemies of this land; we are its protecters,”
Kalem turned and saw a tall dark-haired elf walking up behind her to stand at Aras’ shoulder, “Who are you?”
“I am Kalem. This is Dina. We were sent to the Evenstar,” Kalem replied.
“I knew nothing of this,” the elf replied, “but it is not my decision to choose what is to become of you. Come,” he turned and began to walk forward. As Kalem followed him three more elves melted out of the shadows to stand all around her.
They led her to what Kalem was sure was Rivendell. It was the most beautiful place she had ever seen but Kalem was still nervous. She had never met any elves before (except Legolas) and she had no idea what would happen to her or Dina.
In an inner courtyard Kalem was told to wait until the Evenstar came. A few moments later the daughter of Elrond floated out to the courtyard. She looked like some sort of ethereal being with long flowing black hair and deep saphire eyes. Kalem immediatly dismounted and bowed, “M’Lady.”
“You do not have to bow. You look exhausted. I was told someone sent you,” she asked gently.
Kalem nodded, “Strider said to say that Estel sent us. I have no idea who he is talking about but he said you would understand,” she shrugged.
“Yes I do understand,” Arwen nodded, “When did he tell you that?’
“It was in a letter. After they left. You see I used to work in a small manor a little south of here and I gave him and his companions shelter for a night but they left before I woke up. Strider and Gandalf left a letter and it said that if I ever need to escape the manor to come to Rivendell and ask for the Evenstar and to tell her Estel sent us. And well….we are here and I don’t know what else to do,” Kalem rubbed her eyes. She was so tired and so hungry and so lost. At that moment Dina groaned and started to slide from the saddle. Kalem caught her.
“Who is this?”Arwen asked.
“Dina. She fell and twisted her ankle and then got sick,” Kalem explained.
The Evenstar nodded and took Dina into her own arms, “Shhh. Do not worry. You are safe now,” she said to the child and cradled her gently. She turned to Kalem, “Come. Later I must hear your story in full detail but now Dina needs help and you need warm food and some rest.”
“What about Aras? I must see to my mare,” Kalem stroked the horse’s neck.
“She will be taken care of. She looks like a mount to be proud of,” Arwen smiled, “Come along and we will get Dina and you to bed.”
Kalem followed her as the first elf she had met in the forest came and led Aras away. Kalem finally relaxed as she realised she was safe and was about to get a better night’s sleep than she had had in a long time.
To Be Continued….